This week was a learning thing. I learned that people like to read things that include cuss words. I wrote about the reality of being a weary warrior and what I cling to when the battle keeps raging. But I think most folks clicked on the link because there were four-letter words involved. I do pray those who came for the swearing stayed for the message.
But as popular as that post was, it hasn’t begun to trump the one with the most visits. While I want to be known as someone who tells stories of flesh-and-bone wrapped around hope, it seems pound cake wins. Well, Elvis Presley’s pound cake. Then there are cinnamon rolls, broken glass cake, and milk chicken. It’s only after those four that stories about people and stumbling and grace emerge. Then again, food is a four-letter word. One of the best, actually.
Maybe people keep coming back to the recipes because, no matter where what’s going on, we all really do want community. We want to reach out and care for others (or have someone care for us). And food seems a perfect invitation.
Community happened this week with women gathered in a living room and in a barn on a hill. And food was there – a four-letter word called pie. Pie was my gift to some friends at small group and to a great pastor I work with as we said “we’re going to miss you.” I guess I could have run to the store and purchased some elegant chocolate thing for my dinner with them. I guess I could have given him a Starbucks gift card or an inspirational book or a card with some profound quote embossed on it. But there was something about spending time in the kitchen – cooking custard and slicing strawberries and making shortbread crust – that felt much more real. It gave me time to think about the impact he’s had on my life and how things will feel different without him around to crack jokes at the office or share a heartfelt story about the lives he’s seen changed because of grace and mercy. It allowed me space to be thankful for the love they’ve shown me since they adopted me into their motley crew a few months ago. They don’t even mind it when swearing just isn’t enough.
The pastor’s favorite pies are coconut cream and strawberry, so that’s what I made for everyone. I may have taken liberties with the second, adding a little old-school joy with a classic lemon filling (because I might have just a little renegade spirit in me). Both pies are homemade from top to crust. And while mine were served in 13” X 9” pans, you can make yours the old-fashioned way.
I’m back in the kitchen today, making baby cakes for my incredible friend Sarah at Neighbor’s Table. Tomorrow, I’ll get to hug her and talk about the impact she’s had on my life. Community will happen again at a picnic table. And food will be the invitation.
Honestly, I think it would be wonderful if you’d accept my invitation to be community sometime. The table is open, and the four-letter word awaits.
Gary’s Coconut Cream Pie
makes one 13″ X 9″ pie or one large 9″ or 10″ traditional pie You can use a traditional crust for this. I opted to use an awesome crust I discovered when I made some little coconut lime cheesecakes.
1-1/2 Sleeve of Saltine Crackers
3/4 cup brown sugar,lightly packed
1 cup flaked coconut,lightly toasted
1-1/4 cups coconut oil,measured as a solid, then melted
Preheat oven to 350. Place saltines, brown sugar and coconut in the bowl of food processor, and process until crumb-like. Add melted coconut oil and process till blended. Spread evenly on bottom and sides of a pan prepared with a little shortening and flour. Press with the bottom of a glass to pack crust into place. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
Coconut Cream Filling
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
2 cups sweetened angel-flake coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Unsalted butter, for wrap
Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl, and set it aside for a bit. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk 1/2 cup hot milk mixture into the reserved egg yolks to temper. Slowly pour warm yolks into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat, until mixture begins to bubble, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut and vanilla. Transfer filling to a medium mixing bowl. Lightly butter a piece of plastic wrap, and lay it directly on top of filling to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour. Then spread into cooled crust and continue to chill, preferably overnight. Top pie with whipped cream and a little toasted coconut. Serve and smile.
Gary’s Strawberry Lemon Pie
Makes one 13″ X 9″ pie or one large 9-10″ pie. Again, you can use a traditional crust for this. I opted for something fun – and super easy to make!
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare your baking dish. Cut the butter into the flour and icing sugar and press into the baking dish (using a food processor makes it a piece of cake – no insult to pies). Press the mixture into your pan using the bottom of a glass to make it even. Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown. Set on a wire rack to cool.
Fresh Strawberry Glaze
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 t. Mexican vanilla
2 T. cornstarch
Combine strawberries, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture will sizzle for a while, but then juice will begin to form. Continue stirring; mash a few strawberries with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula if needed help produce the syrup. Cook until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Transfer sauce to a food processor and blend until pureed; then return sauce to pan. In a small bowl, using 1/4 sauce as your base, add cornstarch and blend well. Add cornstarch mixture to remaining sauce and cook over medium heat until sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. When ready to serve, toss 2 pints freshly hulled and sliced strawberries in 1/3 cup sauce and top pie.
Classic Lemon Filling
6 egg yolks
2 (14-ounce) cans Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 t. lemon zest
1 t. vanilla
Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Beat egg yolks in medium bowl with mixer. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well mixed. Pour into crust. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Remove from oven. Cool 1 hour. Chill at least 3 hours. Top with strawberries and a dollop (or 10) of whipped cream.
Thanks to Martha Stewart for the coconut cream filling and Food52 for the coconut lime crust!
What does community look like for you? And what foods are your favorite (so I can be ready)? And would you consider signing up to get little updates from me? I’d love to stay in touch. It’s as easy as sharing an email in the box at the top of the page.